Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is Chocolate Really Good For You?

Why does chocolate make us so happy? The most likely reason for its role in elevating mood and the chocolate craving phenomenon is that it stimulates the release of endorphins. Basically, eating chocolate unlocks our bodies ability to drug itself with happy chemicals.

There is a whole lot of quackery going on out in the world regarding chocolate. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? I've done some research, so let's look beyond the quackery and see what chocolate is all about.

Are there health benefits to eating chocolate? "Did God really make it that easy for us?" you may ask. Here are some facts:

There is something special in chocolate called flavanols. Flavanols are an antioxidant found in cocoa beans that can increase blood flow to the brain.

Ian MacDonald of England’s University of Nottingham reported on tests given to young women who were asked to do a complex task while their brains were being studied with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Among the women given drinks of cocoa high in flavanols, there was a significant increase in blood flow to the brain compared with subjects who did not drink the cocoa, he said.

This raises the prospect of using flavanols in the treatment of dementia, marked by decreased blood flow in the brain, and in maintaining overall cardiovascular health, he said.

These are two members of the Kuna Indian tribe in Panama. They have been found to have similar health benefits. They drink Cocoa exclusively. That has got to be a pretty bitter drink. The cocoa typically sold in markets is low in flavanols, which usually are removed because they impart the bitter taste.

The Kuna and others who live on native islands do not have high blood pressure. When tribe members move to cities, their blood pressure rises. A major difference is the consumption of their own prepared cocoa, which is high in flavanols. In native areas, that is all they drink; in cities they adopt the local diet. Here's the amazing thing: In addition to having low blood pressure, there are no reports of dementia among the native Kuna.

Can we indulge in chocolate then?

Unfortunately no. Chocolate can never be a health food because of the calorie problem. The amount of sugar in most chocolate is another reason. If we all indulge, then half the country that experiences obesity would be in good company, and we would all have another host of health problems to worry about.

More good news:

Mars Inc. last year announced plans to market a line of products under the name CocoaVia which is high in flavanols. Other major chocolate companies, including Hershey’s, have started promoting the flavanol content of their dark chocolates.

My favorite chocolate is the symphony bar, I think I want one now...


Brigham, Kari, Lydia & Ammon said...

Is chocolate good for you, you ask... Why yes, yes it is!
Why? Because it is so delicious and makes me so happy. That's the only answer you need right there :)
So bring on the chocolate please!!

M. Brigham said...

Devin, there is a chocolate company called Amano that is based in Orem. I don't know if you have tried it or not but if you haven't you need to! They sell it downtown at Caputos. You can sample it there too.

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